Russian Parliament Approves Putin as Prime Minister

Loyal lawmakers confirmed Vladimir Putin as prime minister Thursday, capping a carefully engineered recast of Russia's leadership a day after he handed the presidency to his protege Dmitry Medvedev.

The State Duma approved Putin in an overwhelming 392-56 vote after Medvedev told lawmakers that Putin had restored the world's respect for Russia and improved the lives of its citizens in eight years as president.

Medvedev said he would sign a decree making Putin prime minister later in the day.

Putin's unprecedented move from the Kremlin to the No. 2 post will keep him politically prominent for the foreseeable future and could serve as a springboard back to the presidency. It has Russians wondering who will really hold the country's reins.

The switch comes after months of political maneuvering by the popular Putin to maintain a role in ruling Russia after stepping down. Barred by term limits from running in the March presidential vote, he anointed Medvedev as his favored successor in December and pledged to serve as his prime minister.

Medvedev formally nominated Putin in one of his first acts as president Wednesday. His confirmation was never in doubt in the Duma, the lower parliament house, where his United Russia party holds 315 of the 450 seats.

Presenting his nominee to a rare full house at the Duma on Thursday, Medvedev said lawmakers' applause "means that Vladimir Vladimirovich needs no special recommendation" and credited his mentor with recharging Russia's economy and raising its global stature.

"Russia is respected once again," Medvedev said.

Medvedev suggested Putin would have a strong influence on Russian policy for years to come. He said Putin had been involved in setting goals for the country's development through 2020 and "as Cabinet chairman will play a key role in their realization."